Previous Class
2nd March 2023 - David Wolves-Den
Dinner Party Dining - Course Two - Masterchef Round Two
Yes it's time for this course's ersatz Masterchef competition.
If I'm honest I'd say the presentational standard was slightly higher than the last round.
Prepare to be amazed...

Not Karl's Not Karl's Karl's Not Karl's Not Karl's Not Karl's Not Karl's

Now I'd been promised, on my first Dinner Party Dining course with Bulging Aaron, instruction in ballotining a chicken, but circumstances had conspired against that, and the last class got cancelled. Or forgotten.
So I decided to attempt it with a duck for my Master Chef entry.
It all turned into a bit of a rush since I'd expected, and planned, for a 3-hour session to get all of my dishes done, but come the class it was suddenly reduced to two.

In the end I just got through everything, though the duck was slightly less well cooked than I would have liked.
It still won though!

The Winning Dish!
Duck Ballotine with Port and Cherry Sauce
De-Boned duck, stuffed with liver pâté and mushroom forcemeat.
Potato Gratin
This gratin is enriched with Ribblesdale's excellent Mature Goat cheese.
Bok Choy with Orange and Soy Sauce
Duck, port, cherry and now orange and soy. You've got all the flavours!

Duck Ballotine with Port and Cherry Sauce
main fowl
Duck ballotine - French for duck balloon - is basically what you get if you pull all the bones out of a duck, then roll it back up around some tasty stuffing, often pâté, and roast it.
A galantine - French for ponce - is similarly prepared but then poached and usually served cold.

On the deboning of ducks - first watch Watch Jacques Pépin debone a chicken. It's basically like peeling a onesy off a small child. Just not a dead one.
Prising the skeleton out of a duck is essentially the same; you just have to pull (or roll) harder.
Start by cutting the duck open from top to bottom along the spine. The only other time you really need a knife is to cut the joints apart, and to scrape the wing and thigh bones free where they pass through the duck envelope.
Snap off the leg bones with a sharp tap of the back of a heavy knife to leave the very ends in the skin and prevent shrinkage.
This ballotine goes well with a simple potato gratin and some orange and soy sauce bok choy. For which I've added invocations.

Serves 4

Prepare the Duck
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.
Mince the mushrooms and the garlic and sweat in a little butter until all the water has evaporated.
Chop the bread and leave to soak in beaten egg and a little cream. Loosen with milk if necessary.

De-bone the duck. See above.

Trim the excess duck breast, leg and thigh meat so you have a nice handful.
Clean the liver to remove any gristly, veiny, stringy, gritty or green bits.
Mince the duck meat and the livers.
Mince the sage leaves and chives.
Mix everything, season well, grate in the nutmeg. Maybe a splash of sherry.

Lay the de-boned duck skin-side down, spread the stuffing over the middle part.
Gather the sides of the duck and roll up crossing the skin flaps at the join and pulling up spare skin at the neck and bottom ends.
Turn the duck seam-side down, cross its feet, tie them together with twine, then run a set of half-hitches up the body of the duck to the neck.
Space them an inch or two apart and keep them quite snug but not too tight - the stuffing will expand as it cooks and might squeeze out.
Turn the duck and run the twine up over the neck and back down the seam side taking a turn through each loop.
Knot back onto the the end of the string you first tied around the feet.
Generously season the skin with salt & pepper.
Cover any holes or gaps in the duck skin with tin foil.

Lay the duck seam-side up in a cold frying pan and set over a moderate heat.
Let the skin cook until it has browned nicely, occasionally spooning away the excess fat.
Lay the duck seam-side down on a rack over a (capacious - it will leak) oven tin and roast for 45-60 minutes until the skin is nicely golden and the centre reaches 70°C/165°F.

Now Make your Gratin

Make the Sauce
Chop the shallots (or red onion) and sweat in butter with thyme fronds until soft, but not darkened. Add wine (if using - red might be nice) and cook off. Add the cherries, cinnamon (if using) and cover with port.
You could chop the cherries first if you want.
You'll need more cherries than you would believe to get a decent amount of flavour.
And they take forever to break down - so start the cooking as early as you can.
Keep back a few whole cherries with stalks on for decoration.
Loosely cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the cherries disintegrate. Crush them with a potato masher to encourage the process.
Strain the solids, return the liquid to the pan, add the reserved whole cherries, add a teaspoon of honey, and boil vigorously to reduce. Once reduced by perhaps half, taste for seasoning.
Mix the starch with a little water to make a slurry and add to the sauce off the heat. Return to the heat and whisk to thicken.

When the ballotine is perfectly roasted, set it aside to rest for 15 minutes loosely tented in foil, before carefully cutting into fat slices with a serrated knife.

Now Cook the Bok Choy

Carefully cut the duck balloon into fat slices with a serrated knife.
Top each one with a whole cherry and a drizzle of sauce, and serve with a slice of gratin and a bok choy half.
Most satisfying.
And it doesn't taste too bad either.

Yet Another Potato Gratin
staple veg
To add to my collection of many gratins.
You can make a small, bijou, gratin just large enough to cut into slices for your servings, rather than a giant-sized one.
This will cook in much shorter time, possibly whilst you cook a duck ballotine.

Serves about 2 per Potato

Pre-heat the oven to 180-190°C/Gas Mark 4-5.
Thinly slice the garlic, grate the cheese.
Put a saucepan on the hob with the milk, cream, and sliced garlic.
Season with salt and a grating of nutmeg.

Peel the potatoes. Using a mandoline or the potato peeler, slice the potatoes thinly and drop into the heating cream mixture. Don't let it vigorously boil.

Line a gratin dish with parchment, then one at a time, lift out a potato slice, shake off excess liquid (or wipe it on the side of the pan), and layer into the gratin dish.
Sprinkle each complete layer or two with grated cheese.
Scatter the top of the gratin with a layer of cheese and put the dish in the oven on an oven tray. Under the duck. If you happen to be cooking a duck.
Cook for about 30-45 minutes (depending on size) until golden on top.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully lift out the gratin with the parchment and cut into attractive slices with a sharp or serrated knife.
The choice of cheese is inspired! Though I say so myself.

Bok Choy with Orange and Soy Sauce
side veg vegan
Based on someone else's idea for flavouring chicory, but I couldn't find any chicory.
Turns out the bok choy is quite excellent. Lucky discovery.

Serves 2 per Bok Choy

Heat a little oil in a frying pan.
Slice the bok choy in half lengthways and lay them cut-side down in the pan.
You could sprinkle a little sugar over the cut if you were using chicory, but bok choy is sweet enough not to require it.
Leave them to char, then add orange juice about half a satsuma per bok choy and a splash of soy sauce,
cover with a parchment cartouche, and leave to cook over a low heat for 5-10 minutes.
Rather nice.
Ready when easily penetrated with a knife. Don't overcook them - they collapse quite quickly.